Rise Against has made a name for itself as a dynamic live act, earning its stripes on stages across the world. Their brand of socially-sparked observances set to songs found favor with a host of other bands in the punk, metal and harcore arenas. Tim McIlrath (Lead Vocals/Guitar), Chris Chasse (Guitar/Backing Vocals), Joe Principe (Bass/Backing Vocals) and Brandon Barnes (Drums) recently put out their newest record The Sufferer & the Witness and before it could get into stores across the nation, the band was off on tour once again. Starting off with the Warped Tour, the band pledges to stay on the road for the next year and a half at least. While on the road, Tim McIlrath found a few minutes to answer some questions.
antiMusic: The Sufferer & the Witness is a real strong collection of songs. How long has this been in the works and how did it all come together song-wise?
Tim McIlrath: To be honest, these songs almost entirely came out of only three weeks of intense rehearsals. We originally allotted ourselves two months, but then things came up. So we spit this record out in very small period of time. To be fair, a few songs were already complete by the fall of 05 ("Behind Closed Doors" & "Injection"). Everything else was still in the embryonic stage by the time we started really writing. It all came out very naturally. We just trusted our instincts and let the songs happen without over thinking it too much.
antiMusic: What is the story behind the title?
Tim McIlrath: The title is designed to make the listener think about their role and responsibility in the world. We are all witness to the suffering that takes place on this planet. We can't blindly ignore it any longer in pretense that we don't know things like sweatshops still exist. It's sort of a desperate plea.
antiMusic: Four records in, does songwriting and getting across whatever message you want to convey, come a little easier to you now?
Tim McIlrath: It's easier in the sense that we know how to work with each other better now than ever before, but of course we want to push ourselves and challenge each other, so in that sense it gets harder to not recreate your first three records.
antiMusic: How did the idea of having a guest vocalist appear on "Roadside" happen? How did you link up with Emily Schambra and was she your first choice?
Tim McIlrath: Emily was, indeed, our first and only choice. I'd collaborated with her once before and was a big fan of her band (Holy Roman Empire), who are close friends of ours. It was just a clear and obvious choice as soon as we knew we'd like to include female vocals on a few songs. She has a killer voice and she's rad.
antiMusic: You've done Warped Tour a few times. What is it about the tour that appeals to you guys? The camaraderie or the size of the crowds?
Tim McIlrath: Both, really. I mean, we'd be touring no matter what all summer, so why not do it with a whole bunch of friends? We get to hang out with the Souls, Against Me!, Thursday, NOFX, Alexisonfire, Anti-Flag, the Casualties, Billy Talent and so many other rad bands as well as all the people that work for Warped that we've come to know over the years. It's a really fun time.
Aside from that, we are always up for the challenge of putting ourselves in front of new people, and Warped is a great place to play for people who might not normally come see your band. Some of those shows are like 25,000 people. That's a pretty amazing opportunity.
antiMusic: Is it tough to avoid the party atmosphere of the festival and the late-night rowdiness when you're moving onto the next show and getting ready for the next performance?
Tim McIlrath: Who avoids parties? That's half the fun of being out there. There's a lot of downtime, especially for band people. There's plenty of time to hang out and still get the job done.
antiMusic: Is it kind of frustrating to come out of the studio and get right on a tour that only allows you 20 minutes or so to play? Are you itching to play a full set or is this just a good way to break into tour mode?
Tim McIlrath: When you're playing something like 60 shows almost in a row, you appreciate the abbreviated set after awhile. But you're right, it does limit us, I mean, we have four records now, and a half hour is maybe 8 songs for us. That means a lot of songs get left out. Plus, we are really excited about the new record. We are out on tour now though, so we'll be trying out a bunch of stuff.
antiMusic: You've played to a variety of crowds in the past, from punk to more hardcore. Do you feel more comfortable in one camp than another or do you feel you have a foot in both sides?
Tim McIlrath: Something that has been a recurring motif since this bands inception is the diverse nature of the shows we play and the tours we hop on. We would go from a Mad Caddies/Yellowcard tour to an Agnostic Front/TSOL tour to opening for System Of A Down to playing with Boysetsfire and Thursday. You get put in front of a lot of people, and it teaches you to break past the barriers that genre's can sometimes be.
antiMusic: After the Warped Tour, what are the plans for the band? Just tour madly or do you have anything special planned?
Tim McIlrath: Tour madly. We're booked solid almost until 2008. No joke. We're going everywhere and playing for everyone, and that's not even taking into account some of the more exotic places we've been trying to reach. It's pretty intimidating, but we're not special, this is what bands do to survive. It makes it less dreadful when you are really excited about your new record, and we are. I can't wait to get these songs out to as many people as possible.
Morley Seaver and antiMUSIC thank Tim for doing this interview.